The first coin I’d like to introduce is a Tetartemorion, minted in Magnesia on the Maeander, my favourite mint! According to its style I assume the coin to minted at about 400 b.C.
The male, youthful head on the obverse is usually interpreted as head of Apollon. Unfortunately its not clearly visible on the worn piece whether the God is wearing a laurel wreath. The avers shows a raging bull, runnig to the right, lowering his head. While the M is outside of the coin, the legend is red (M) A on the obvers, continuing G N H on the reverse, meaning MAGNEton in ancient greek. The term Magneton refers to second person genitiv, which means „of the Magnetians“ and declares the coin to be part of the official currency of the state of Magnesia on the Maeander.
The buttin bull on the revers is a bit more challenging to interpret. Homer describes the river Skamandros, which rans through the territory of Troja, as a roaring, angry bull, rolling through the meadows of Ilion. For assuring the fertility of the Troian fields, the river was ennobled to a demigod, with an own cultus and own priest. Everywhere across the ancient greek world river gods were depicted as buttin bulls, sometimes with a bearded human face. Beeing symbolized as an attacking bull the personification of a river god also tells us about the fear of drought and crop failure: the small, dry summertime streamlets of Asia Minor have very few in commom with the watering, rolling rivers that the people longed for. After thunderstorms and snowmelt, during the winter month, the creeks are in fact transformed into torrentials rivers, whose power and speed for the ancient Greeks seemed to be only comparable with one of the most powerful animals of their time – the bull.
Same at Magnesia: the butting bull is the iconographic depiction of the personification of the Maeandros River. By displaying the rivergod on their coins, the Magnesians showed everybody the considerable local value of this deity and, by doing this, worshiped him. Introducing two major gods. a local river and the first letters of the City on hardly 0,24 inch – a remarkable message for such a small medium.